A Langley graduate who holds a key position with a Nobel Peace Prize-winning agency said it was his encounter with a “messy complicated world” that led him to work for the World Food Programme (WFP).
On Friday, Oct. 9, the Nobel Peace Prize for 2020 was awarded to the WFP for its efforts to combat world hunger and improve conditions for peace in war- torn areas around the world.
Kenn Crossley, a graduate of Langley’s Trinity Western University, works at the WFP headquarters in Rome, Italy as its Director of Cash Transfers, overseeing a program that provides cash and digital assistance to those in need.
“Wars, droughts, hurricanes all too often cause suffering for people who are surrounded by plenty,” said Crossley. “Food, water, shelter and medicines are often right there in the local markets—but they lack the money to buy it.”
As part of the Cash Transfers program directed by Crossley, “the WFP identifies families in urgent need [living] where markets are working, and then we transfer help to them in the form of cash, digital vouchers or mobile money.”
“Instead of lining up for bags of food, they can buy essentials in the shops and local markets,” Crossley explained.
Crossley graduated from Trinity Western in 1991 with a degree in History. He pursued graduate studies in
philosophy at UBC and later taught courses at TWU.
In the field of political philosophy, Crossley connected with a friend who had joined UNICEF. Crossley was introduced to a placement working in what is now called South Sudan, to support a major international push for child soldier demobilization.
“I ended up in bush camps under mango trees talking with cohorts of officers in the Sudan People’s Liberation
Army about Geneva conventions and the rights of women and children,” Crossley recalled.
“This attempt to apply clean noble ideas to a messy complicated world compelled me to rethink the whole academia thing,” he said. Crossley stayed on in Nairobi, working with other professionals in humanitarian and diplomatic fields. In 2003, he became a reports officer for the WFP in Johannesburg. He said, “I’ve bounced around the organization and the world ever since.”
“WFP is an international humanitarian response organization,” Crossley explained. “Where there are wars, conflicts, droughts, floods, failed states, economic crises and grinding poverty, the WFP joins many UN agencies and NGOs to help alleviate acute needs.”
According to Crossley, in 2019, the WFP transferred $2.7 billion Cdn worth of cash and vouchers to approximately 28 million people affected by crises in 64 countries.
“Our team in Rome develops the systems, procedures and technologies to enable last mile delivery of cash assistance through country operations to people in urgent need,” he reported.
Crossley noted that COVID-19 has rapidly altered global needs in at least three significant ways.
“Tens of millions of people who used to be ‘just barely getting by’ are now facing deep and ravaging crisis,” he
shared. “Decades of progress reducing poverty and fighting hunger are about to unravel. The need for the world to step up is growing alarmingly.”
Fortunately, Crossley remarked, there are now more ways to provide help. He believes that COVID-19 is catalyzing work to accelerate “the digitization of relief assistance.”
“As more governments step up to help their citizens, we are expanding technical assistance to governments as they build their own systems to manage hunger and crises beyond the duration and scope of short term humanitarian aid,” Crossley shared.
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the most prestigious awards in the world. The award comes with an honorary gold medal and a cash grant of 10-million krona ($1.5 million Cdn).
Throughout this past week, the Nobel Committee announced the winners for the 2020 Nobel prizes in physiology and medicine, physics, chemistry, and literature. Next Monday, the winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize for economics will be announced.